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Products > Corynocarpus laevigatus
Corynocarpus laevigatus - New Zealand Laurel
Image of Corynocarpus laevigatus
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Corynocarpaceae
Origin: New Zealand (Australasia)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: White
Bloomtime: Spring
Synonyms: [Corynocarpus laevigata]
Height: 25-40 feet
Width: 8-12 feet
Exposure: Light Shade/Part Sun
Seaside: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 20-25 F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Corynocarpus laevigatus (New Zealand Laurel) - A slow growing narrow upright evergreen tree reaching 25 to 40 feet tall and is densely covered with attractive oblong dark glossy green foliage. On mature plants small greenish cream flowers appear in spring and are followed by large decorative orange berries.

Plant in part sun and water regularly to occasionally - established plants require only infrequent irrigation and are surprisingly drought tolerant. It is hardy to 20-25 F. This is a good container plant, or in the ground for screening in part day sun or shaded locations. It has a good tolerance of coastal conditions and with its dense growth can be used as a hedge to provide protection for other less seashore tolerant plants. With its large leathery leaves it looks best when trimmed and not sheared. Though rarely seen fruiting in cultivation in California, the fruit and the single seed inside are quite poisonous, containing a glycoside compound called karakin, but in the more than 35 years we have had the species and the variegated cultivar (Corynocarpus laevigatus 'Variegatus') in our gardens, we have seen very few fruits on the species, and never seen the variegated cultivar produce any fruit.

This plant is native to coastal and lowland forests throughout the North Island of New Zealand and coastal areas on the upper third of the South Island as well as on the Kermadec and Chatham Islands. The Maori people call this plant Karaka (on the Chatham Islands it was called kopi) and historically it was a very important cultivated plant for shelter and for a food source with the poisonous seed rendered edible through a washing and a cooking process. The Maori folklore recount stories of bringing this plant to New Zealand, but since the plant is not found elsewhere, this is now considered an unfounded myth and the plant is thought to have originated in New Zealand.

The name Corynocarpus comes from the Greek words 'koryne' meaning "a club" and 'karpos' meaning "fruit" in reference to the shape of its fruit. The specific epithet is Latin for "smooth" in reference to the smooth glossy leaves. These leaves have interesting stipules in the leaf axils that are fused to form a single dark sheath, a characteristic that is a distinctive feature for this tree. This plant has been grown in the US for many years as Corynocarpus laevigata with the epithet misspelled. According to the International Plant Names Index the spelling of the specific epithet as "laevigata" that was authored by John Reinhold Forster and his son Johann Georg Adam Forster in 1775 preceded by one year the published name as "laevigatus" but this later name is listed as current on the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew database. The Fosters were Germans of Scottish descent who accompanied James Cook on his second Pacific voyage and published an account of the physical geography, natural history, and ethnic philosophy that they had observed en route. The specific name for the Kentia Palm, Howea forsteriana, honors both father and son. This species was first introduced into California in 1865 by James Welch of San Francisco and we have offered it our nursery since 1983. We also grow the variegated form of this plant, Corynocarpus laevigatus 'Variegatus'

This information about Corynocarpus laevigatus displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.